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Microsoft to license Windows ‘protocols’ to rivals

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Microsoft yesterday agreed to release details of internal Windows protocols to competitors under license, as part of last year's anti-trust settlement.

These protocols will be licensed "for the sole purpose of creating server software to interoperate or communicate with Windows 2000 Professional, Windows XP and successor desktop operating systems", according to a statement by Microsoft.

"With access to Microsoft Communication Protocols, licensees have new ways to achieve interoperability between their servers and covered Windows desktops," it added.

Microsoft has promised to publish "virtually all information about the [protocol licensing] program, including sample license documents and brief summaries of each of the protocols, on a publicly accessible Web site that anyone can view". It said it hopes to reduce the initial cost of licensing its proprietary protocols, though the company makes no firm commitment on this point.

However Microsoft's critics argue the anti-trust settlement - which the protocol licensing program form a small part of - is an ineffectual remedy to Redmond's monopolistic behaviour.

Ken Wasch, head of the Software & Information Industry Association, told Reuters that even though he welcomed signs that the anti-trust agreement was being enforced it "will do little to restore the competitive damage that Microsoft's anti-competitive actions did to the software industry."

When the idea was mooted a year ago, joint-lead of the Samba project Jeremy Allison told us that a published specification was of no use at all:-

"There can't be a specification that's worth anything," he told us.

"The source code itself is the specification . The level of detail required to interoperate successfully is simply not documentable - it would produce a stack of paper so high you might as well publish the source code." ®

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